Monday, 18 April 2011

Scientists and journalists together to stand up for science

Vitae Public Engagement Blog
It's always great to share a day with passionate scientists. It's even better if these scientists are not only passionate about doing science but also about communicating science. And the best thing that can happen is to share a day with those passionate scientists plus journalists and people willing to have a word about science in the mass media, and discuss about these topics with them.

Published in Vitae Public Engagement Blog

I’m a scientist and I do what I love to do. I do experiments with yeast that hopefully will have an impact on cancer research. But I want to make an impact on people as well. As a CRUK funded researcher my experiments are paid with people’s money and I want them to know what I’m doing with their money. I owe them that. Scientists owe society that.

This is something that scientists cannot do by themselves. We need journalists and mass media in order to do that. This is one of the main reasons why I attended the “Standing up for Science Media Workshop” organised by Sense about Science, a small charity that equips people to make sense of science and evidence, on the 11th of March at University of Manchester.

Most of the knowledge that society has about science comes from breaking news about new discoveries made in different scientific fields in different mass media. And not all of them are true. What is exciting for a scientist is not for a journalist and the other way around. Here is where the miscommunication problems arise and where “bad science” has a place. As scientists we have to make clear to the public what is true and what is not in the science that is spread in the mass media. Because that’s the science that society gets. We have to get involved in public debates about science to make this “bad science” turn into “good science”. It doesn’t matter in which moment of your research career you are. Actually it’s important that we start doing this from the early stages of our career as well (even if at the very beginning we are focused on making our way in science and we think we don’t know enough about something to make a statement). 

Finally, I would like to share with you some take home messages that I got from the workshop. First, be proactive. You have the knowledge. Share it. Talk about your published science or other people’s published and interesting science (start writing a blog about science and use the help of your institution press officer to contact the media). And second, be critical and analytical with the science that is communicated and respond when something is wrong. This is our duty and only scientists can do it. Stand up for Science.

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